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The Final Board Is Not Yet Finalized: Baalke and Pederson Prepare for 2024 Draft

041824 Baalke Pederson PreDraft Press Conference

JACKSONVILLE – Trent Baalke put it simply.

"You're trying to find the best player," he said.

That's how Thursday's Jaguars 2024 pre-draft media availability began and that was the theme throughout – that no matter the pre-draft speculation, the approach for the Jaguars in next week's 2024 NFL Draft will remain the same as in recent drafts:

  • Let the board fall as it falls.
  • Draft the best possible players.
  • Trust the process.

"We have some needs obviously that we need to address," Baalke said seven days before his fourth draft as the Jaguars' general manager. "The board has to fall the right way. Needs are paramount, but we're going to stick to our plan and draft the best players available."

The Jaguars, after finishing second in the AFC South in 2023 with a 9-8 record, enter the April 25-27 Draft with the No. 17 overall selection in Round 1 and eight total selections.

"Every year it's different," Head Coach Doug Pederson said of potential draft-day maneuvering. "We're going to put the best roster together for 2024 and go play football, be competitive. That's all we can control. We're going to pick players who can help us."

Baalke said while most pre-draft preparation is complete, he and Pederson are scheduled to meet Monday.

"Were not there yet," Baalke said. "Coach and I haven't sat down yet and gone through the final board. We'll do that on Monday. We like how it's shaping up, but we still have some work to do."

The Jaguars' eight overall selections:

  • Round 1 (No. 17)
  • Round 2 (No. 48)
  • Round 3 (No. 96, compensatory)
  • Round 4 (No. 114)
  • Round 4 (No. 116, from New Orleans)
  • Round 5 (No. 153)
  • Round 6 (No. 212, compensatory)
  • Round 7 (No. 236)

Baalke said he won't have a feel for a possible trade earlier or later in Round 1 until Thursday night – likely four or five selections before the Jaguars are scheduled to select at No. 17.

"There's a lot that goes into it," Baalke said. "We feel good about the group that's there at different positions, the ones that we're focused in on a little bit, but you don't know what's going to happen. We really aren't going to know until maybe the 12th or 13th pick. Then we'll look at the opportunity to potentially move up.

"If we get to No. 16 and somebody calls and we get the chance to move back one or two positions … you just don't know. You're playing it on game day."

Added Baalke, "We can't control what happens in front of us. Whatever happens happens. If we really target someone and we really feel we need to make a run – let's say get up to 12, get up to 13 – we'll be prepared to do that if the right person's there.

"There are so many things that can happen. You have to go in prepared, but the board's going to fall the way it falls. You just have to be ready for everything."

Baalke throughout his tenure with the Jaguars has emphasized much the same approach when measuring needs versus draft value throughout his tenure – and he said Thursday there's little cause for change.

"Most of the time, there isn't that big a separation between a need and another position," Baalke said. "When in doubt, you're going to take the need if it's close. If there's a great distance between the two, you have to weigh that out.

"Usually what we've done in the past is stick with the board and take the best player available."

The Jaguars were active addressing perceived needs earlier this offseason, signing free agents such as center Mitch Morse (Buffalo Bills), wide receiver Gabe Davis (Bills), defensive tackle Arik Armstead (San Francisco 49ers), tight end Josiah Deguara (Green Bay Packers), cornerback Ronald Darby (Baltimore Ravens), wide receiver/returner Devin Duvernay (Ravens), safety Darnell Savage (Packers), kicker Joey Slye (Washington Commanders) and outside linebacker Trevis Gipson (Tennessee Titans). They also traded with the New England Patriots for quarterback Mac Jones, a starter in his first three NFL seasons now expected to backup starter Trevor Lawrence.

Baalke said he feels "comfortable" with the roster entering the draft.

"You try to address needs in free agency," Baalke said. "The less needs you have going into the draft, the better. Obviously it allows you to stick to that draft the best player available."

Said Pederson, "First thing we try to do every off season is try to re-sign our own guys, then look outside the building to fill those immediate needs there. Obviously, the third bucket is the draft. Heading into next week you feel now you're just adding more talent, more depth and competition."

Baalke on Thursday said he likes this year's draft overall, saying that it's "no different than most drafts" with players available at all levels.

"You just have to find them," he said, adding that it's overall an older class because of collegiate rules that allowed players to play extra seasons following the COVID-19 pandemic.

"That's a little different for us," Baalke said, adding that with a week remaining before Round 1, "We feel good about where the board is now. We feel good about where our needs lie and how the board's shaping up.

"Now we just have to wait and play it out."

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